Judges 16:4-31 Judges Sermon # 20
“Look to the Cross, Before You Cross” November 5, 2017
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
We move today to the climax of this story of Samson:
Israel is still anxious not to have the status quo challenged;
The Philistines continue to be increasingly provoked by Samson;
Another frustrated woman is seeking an answer to her man’s secret;
Samson is fooling around with a woman who wants to betray him; but through it all,
The Lord is sovereignly carrying out His glorious and redemptive plans!
Now there are four directions I urge you to look towards, as we work through Judges 16.
Ultimately we must look in the direction of the cross of Christ… before we cross over from this life to the next; even before we cross over to our next day, our next action. Let’s look at this:
First Direction: Look in the Mirror – For The Evil You Despise May Be Your Own. (v. 20)
20 Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you! ”He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him.”
It’s easy for us to see that Samson was careless, complacent, and presumptuous while he toyed with Delilah. Samson is playing games with Delilah in the bedroom, toying with her, while at the same time Delilah is playing a deadly secret game with him. And while the Philistines, nor the woman, know why Samson has such strength, he himself is in the dark in a two-fold way: first, because he doesn’t know that his girlfriend is ready to betray him for silver, and second, because he fails to notice that the Lord – the source of his strength – had left him!
We can see all that… but will we look in the mirror and see ourselves in this story?
When the people of Israel heard the story of Samson, it wasn’t meant for their entertainment. No. For they were meant to see themselves in the folly and sins of Samson. Dale Davis comments that “Samson is a paradigm of Israel: one raised up out of nothing, richly gifted, (yet) who gives himself to various lovers, and yet expects that the Lord will always be with him…Israel doesn’t know that the Lord may also depart from her… and neither does many a congregation or denomination realize it either.”
It is easy for us to shake our heads at Samson’s foolishness, isn’t it? It’s just so natural for you and for me to express our disapproval over the sins of others, right? Do you catch yourself saying things like this: “Huh! What was that guy thinking? Didn’t he realize that his addiction to prescription meds would cost him everything?” Or to say “Look at her! She should have known her lying and cheating would end up coming back to bite her!” We are quick to see and to condemn the evil in others, are we not?
But we often fail to look in the mirror and see ourselves. In Israel’s case, they should have seen that Samson’s playing around with Delilah was a picture of Israel’s adulterous relationship with the seductive but idolatrous nations around her. In our case, we need to look in the mirror and realize that we are addicted to the drug of self-justification. That is, we think that we don’t need to make major U-turns in our lifestyles, because we’re the ones righteously calling out the social and personal sins of others. Both liberals and conservatives do this, on a host of hot topics: climate change, abortion, sexuality and gender, and so forth. We feel smugly self-righteous and virtuous when we point out the faults and prejudices of others, but we fail to look in the mirror and see ourselves doing the same things. So we must learn from Samson’s sins: look in the mirror, for the evil you despise may be your own.
Second Direction: Look to the Heavens – See that the Lord Always Has the Last Laugh. (vv. 23-25)
23 Now the rulers of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to celebrate, saying, “Our god has delivered Samson, our enemy, into our hands.” 24 When the people saw him, they praised their god, saying, “Our god has delivered our enemy into our hands, the one who laid waste our land and multiplied our slain.” “While they were in high spirits, they shouted, “Bring out Samson to entertain us. [Or “to make sport of Samson; to mock him”]” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them.”
Let me remind you that it is a foolish thing to mock the true and living God. It is also a dangerous practice to give credit and glory to idols, when it should be give to the Lord, as both the rulers and the people did here. But they would soon pay the price. Indeed, the victory cries of the Philistines were tragically ironic, when you consider their final outcome. The false gods would be exposed once again as frauds and imposters, and the Lord would vindicate Himself, by bringing down their own temple on their heads. The Lord would have the last laugh.
Michael Wilcock comments that when the Philistines shouted, “Our god has delivered our enemy into our hands,” they acknowledged that a divine plan was overruling everything – but, they attributed that plan to the wrong god. Later, as without warning, the temple of their god collapsed upon them, they must have realized with blinding clarity that the God of Israel had turned the whole thing inside out, and that it would be Israel, not the Philistines, who would cry out: “Our god has delivered our enemy into our hands!”
Indeed, the Philistines knew nothing of the Lord God, who never forsakes His servants, and who is bound to defend His own glory and honor, especially when His exalted Name is mocked.
What the Philistines did to Samson, in scorning him (v. 25 “for their amusement/ entertainment) the crowds did to a greater Samson, when Jesus was hung on a cross, and the soldiers and people mocked him and laughed at him.
But remember who always has the last laugh! God reminds us in Psalm 2 that the Lord scoffs at the rulers who plot against Him! The One enthroned in Heaven laughs at those who think they can overthrow His sovereign plans! Therefore we are urged to serve the Lord with fear and to rejoice with trembling; kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you be destroyed, as the Philistines were. For God cannot be mocked (Gal. 6:7), so look to the heavens, and see that the Lord always has the last laugh. Therefore humble yourself before Him. Confess before Him that you have mocked Him in your heart, if not with your words. Don’t take credit yourself. Give Him all the glory!
Third Direction: Look to the Lord – His Grace Abounds to the Chief of Sinners. (v. 28, 30a)
28 Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” 30 Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!”
If you were the Lord, how would you respond to Samson’s prayer here? I mean, here he is, in trouble, once more, because he gave in to sexual temptation and he couldn’t keep a secret!
If you were God, would you tell Samson, “Look, you got yourself into this mess; I’ve bailed you out enough times already; so now you have to suffer the consequences of your sins.”
There are probably times in your life when even you don’t think God should show you anymore grace or forgiveness. After all, you’ve messed up so many times in the same way that you know you don’t deserve any more mercy from God.
But even now, the Lord graciously answers faithless and foolish Samson. He graciously allows his final act to be his best act of bringing God’s judgment on the wicked and idolatrous Philistines, who had mocked God.
As Samson looks to the Lord, he finds that God’s grace continues to abound to the chief of sinners, so that even his death will be redemptive!
That was God’s lesson for faithless Israel as well, if they would cry to Him, and that is His lesson for you and me: That as we look to the Lord, in repentance and faith, He will hear us from His holy heaven, and His forgiving and restoring grace will abound to us, even to the chief of sinners… for Christ came into the world to save sinners. (1 Tim. 1:15)
Are you looking to the Lord? He graciously will hear you when you cry to Him – especially when you and I know we don’t deserve it!
Fourth Direction: Look to Jesus – As Samson’s Death Dimly Reflects the Cross (v. 30)
30 Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.
Not many of us can choose the time and the circumstance of our final action on earth, can we?
Here we have the mighty Samson being mocked and scorned by the enemy, put on display for their entertainment, and knowing that his death is imminent. So what does he do? He asks that God might use his death for God’s glory, by bringing a righteous judgment upon the Philistines. And God granted him that request, as Samson was empowered by the Lord to be able to push the central pillars of the temple down, killing most of the enemies’ leadership, and thus incapacitating their military force against Israel. Through his death the heathen god is defeated and the Lord of Israel triumphs.
So here is the final irony in the saga of Samson: in the downfall of the 12th and final judge, the True and Ultimate Judge would triumph. His sacrificial death would bring life to his fellow Israelites, as his final act would help free them from bondage and oppression under the Philistines.
And so Samson’s death dimly reflects what happened at the cross of Jesus Christ. Samson died for his own sins, yet his death provided freedom for his people from their enemies. But Christ died, not for his own sins, but for the sins of His enemies (Romans 5:10), so that through Him taking the death penalty for us, we might be given forgiveness, righteousness, and adoption as God’s children!
“Samson stands as a dreadful warning, the man of enormous potential who never grasped that the Spirit’s call to holy discipline is even more important than the Spirit’s gifts. But on the broader canvas, the plan of God goes on, inescapably, and through Samson, the tragic figure though he is, the Spirit of the Lord brings about the salvation of his people.” (M. Wilcock)
Let me ask you this morning: are you looking to Jesus? Is what He did on the Cross meaningful for you? Does it move you to give your heart and your life to Him?
I urge you to look to the Cross, before you cross over any more milestones in your life.